The effect of Amazonian Eucalyptus plantations on soil aggregates and organic matter density fractions
Afforestation with Eucalyptus species is increasing in Brazil, but there is little information on theimpacts of intensively managed short-rotation forestry on soil aggregate dynamics and labile organic matter fractions in these tropical ecosystems. This study investigated soil aggregate dynamics in a clay and sandy soil, each with a Eucalyptus plantation and an adjacent primary forest. It is shown that silviculture alters the processes of soil aggregate formation on both soil types. Micro-aggregates at 0-20 cm depth in the planted clay soil were 40% greater in mass than under native forest, and C and N were reduced by 87 and 75%, respectively. In plantations with a sandy soil, micro-aggregates had equal mass compared with native forest, but increased in C and N by 20 and 67%, respectively. The results from the sandy soil indicate that C and N increased in micro-aggregates following afforestation. Macro-organic matter fractions separated by density had lower mass, C, and N concentrations, and higher C:N ratios only in lower soil profiles, with native forest having greater values in all comparisons with light and medium fractions. The differences in micro-aggregate C and N and in the light and medium macro-organic matter fractions between the upper and lower soil profiles in both soils, indicate that silvicultural management had contrasting effects on different soil textures and at different depths. Increased micro-aggregate protection of C and N in the sandy plantation soil could negatively affect long-term nutrient cycling although the quantity and quality of light and medium macro-organic matter fractions did not change between plantation and native forest in the upper soil profile; this indicates that labile OM availability and quality had not been diminished in plantation soils at this depth.